SUSPECT SEARCH: Employee attacked inside North Port Walmart bathroom

Surveillance images

NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) – It was a bathroom beat-down in Walmart that left an employee in shock and a customer on the run.

The attack happened bright and early Sunday morning around 8:30am at a Wal-Mart on Tamiami Trail in North Port.

On surveillance video, a woman can be seen rushing out of Walmart. She keeps repeatedly looking over her shoulder to make sure no one spots her.  Police said she had just committed a dangerous and odd crime.

“We’re just trying to figure out why this person may have done this,” said North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor.

North Port police said at around 8:30 Sunday morning, an employee was washing her hands in a bathroom, when a woman walked out of a stall.

The employee said hello, and in response the woman repeatedly pushed her to the ground, and tried to drag her into a stall yelling- “You’re coming with me.” The attacker also called her a derogatory term for gay people.

“Maybe she was just using this slur as a part of her own vocabulary, not necessarily any type of hate crime or something like that. We don’t know. But, we’d like to find out,” said Taylor.

“This poor employee is just doing her job,” Taylor added.

Thankfully the employee escaped. Just after the crime, the attacker’s companion, a man in blue, opened the bathroom door and yelled at the woman to hurry up they needed to leave. The pair then quickly left the store before authorities arrived.

The two were seen on surveillance over a period of two days in the store, and police believe the couple stayed overnight in the parking lot.

One mom we spoke with told News Channel 8 that she shops at the store all the time and feels it’s safe.

Longtime Walmart shopper Melanie Richard can’t believe this happened, but at the same time, she admits that she never lets her guard down when she’s out in public.

“I pay attention to my surroundings. My purse, I always hold it, I see people with their purse open, and I’m like ‘no, no, no,’” said Laura Augustus-Thomas. “My attention is always on [my child]. I try to pay attention to what’s around me.”

“Typically, I feel safe, but after hearing about this story, it kind of makes me rethink, do I really want to go back there?” said Richard.

Officials do not believe they’re from the area, but they hope someone knows who they are.

“Somebody was just doing their job and somebody needs to be held accountable. You can’t just go around pushing people down and calling them slurs and try to drag them into a bathroom stall. So, we got to figure out what was going on here, what was going through these folks’ minds,” said Taylor.

The woman could face a battery charge.

As for the employee, she’s shaken up about the incident, but is ultimately doing alright. Police believe the attack was random, but they want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

A Walmart spokesman provided this statement to News Channel 8:

“The safety and security of everyone in our store remains among our top priorities. We take this situation seriously, and we’ll continue working with North Port law enforcement as they search for the person responsible.”

If you have any information, call North Port Police.

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